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Nūz: Santa Cruz County News Briefs

But Hey! No Fish Smell

The owner of the Brookdale Lodge is facing potentially hefty fines from the California Department of Fish and Game after 49 dead fish were found in a nearby stretch of Clear Creek, which flows under the lodge's restaurant

An employee at the Brookdale restaurant, known for the open stream meandering through the dining room, is thought to have poured between 1 and 3 gallons of bleach into the stream prior to the fish turning up dead.

"Basically, what happened was we had a clog in the pipes and we tried to clear it, then it overflowed and an employee mopped up the spill and threw the water with bleach in it into a storm drain that went into the creek," says Sanjiv Kakkar, owner of the Brookdale Lodge. "It was a new employee who didn't know not to throw the water in the drain."

An official with the DFG said the dead fish were between 2 and 12 inches long and that tests to determine exactly how they died should be finished by next week.

"We know that the steelhead trout is endangered in this area, and there may be steelhead among the dead fish that were found," says Carol Singleton, spokeswoman for the DFG. "Fortunately the pollution didn't go further downstream because of the dilution factor."

Steelhead trout, much like salmon, migrate from streams to oceans. They've been decimated in several areas, including Santa Cruz County, due to human encroachment and pollution.

Singleton said an anonymous caller reported the dead fish and that the fact that the restaurant did not report the spill may affect what consequences it faces once the DFG investigation is complete.

Kakkar has closed the restaurant for approximately two weeks and said he's committed to cleaning up his act.

"This is not something we take lightly," Kakkar said. "I'm working hard to clean the area and make sure the fish are protected."

Singleton said if the DFG investigation concludes that the restaurant killed the fish, it could hand out fines of up to $25,000 to those at fault. Also, if endangered steelhead were indeed among the dead fish, federal charges could be levied as well.

The New News Thing

Nu_z wept salty tears at the news that KUSP is giving the boot to four hours' worth of midday music programming during the week to make room for more news. After all, it was on a recent airing of Open Road that Nu_z discovered the album that's been in heavy rotation in the Nu_zmobile ever since. The thought of KUSP following in the tracks of CSUMB station KAZU and going all talk all day when it unveils its new programming on Sept. 1 was not a welcome one.

Susan Goldstein, president of KUSP's board of directors, hastens to explain that KUSP is most assuredly not becoming another NPR yackfest. "We'll still keep music in the evenings, locally hosted classical and jazz, five days a week," she says, adding that KUSP will be "strengthening the music on the weekends."

But listening habits are changing, she says. In seven surveys over the past 18 months, listeners said they wanted news in the middle of the day, so they can catch up when they're just driving across town on an errand. "It's a different kind of culture now," Goldstein says. "It's not like everyone's in their car at 8:30 and then again at 5:30. People work for themselves, they're driving at different times of the day."

Station manager Terry Green adds that KUSP's new midday information shows will be different from the typical NPR fare. "What people want out of public radio is something more than the intravenous drip of news," he says, "which is how KAZU kind of comes across sometimes."

Instead, Green says, KUSP will be going for depth—ways to connect the local to the regional, national and global. Key to this enterprise is a partnership with San Francisco public radio station KALW. The two stations plan to collaborate on an hour-long daily call-in show. Nu_z imagines something like KQED's Forum with Michael Krasny.

In typical Santa Cruz fashion, KUSP is going about its new initiative in innovative, wave-of-the-future fashion: by working directly with other public radio stations, such as KALW, rather than just taking what NPR and PRI hand down to them. One show KUSP is considering picking up is The Diane Rehm Show, independently produced in Washington, D.C., by public station WAMU. Green says such partnerships are a hot topic around public radio stations.

"It will certainly qualify as a grand experiment," he says.  

The Return of B99

The faces are familiar, the signs are the same and the slightly sweet scent of french fried fuel once again laces the air at the biodiesel station at Soquel and Ocean streets. Where the defunct Pacific Biofuel once stood, now the newly conceived Green Station is open for business. It quietly began selling small amounts of the cleaner-burning fuel in July.

"B99 still lives in Santa Cruz," says Ray Newkirk, the former president of PacFuel and the most visible biodiesel activist in Santa Cruz. Still chatting with customers and fueling the revolution, Newkirk eschews a managerial label at the new station and instead calls himself "the green grunt."

"I'm the only guy working here now," he says.

According to Newkirk, an anonymous former PacFuel customer purchased the pumps and the first shipment of biodiesel for the Green Station. The station's current fuel supply, produced in Gonzales, is completely recycled, whereas PacFuel's biodiesel came from a blend of recycled and virgin sources. Pending City Council approval, the Green Station intends to sell electric cars as early as September. It currently also rents U-Hauls.

The Green Station, for all its charms, does not completely mirror the biodiesel vision Newkirk expressed when PacFuel shut down earlier this summer. In June, he hoped to "sidestep the whole economic structure" by replacing his failed commercial station with a member-owned cooperative. But plans for a coop were scrapped when that option was deemed unfeasible. The Green Station is completely retail.

"We're trying to make a living here, too, where we need to do a retail sale to stay open, and that doesn't let itself to a co-op very well," Newkirk now says.

A gallon of biodiesel sells for $5.79, up from $4.99 when PacFuel closed in May. Newkirk attributes the elevation in cost to both "the rising cost of everything" and an increased fuel markup to 50 cents per gallon, roughly double the (ultimately unsustainable) mark-up at PacFuel.

"It's like gourmet fuel," says Jess Burg, a biodiesel advocate who works for Newkirk's separate carpentry business and helps out around the Green Station. "There's a finite amount [of biodiesel]. This you can only get certain places," Burg says.

"I try not to look at the price," says Sarah Leonard, who has filled up her Dodge truck and Volkswagen TDI at the old and new biodiesel stations. "We're all doing what we can for the green movement and try to make alternatives mainstream."

Lest anyone decide that the captains of biodiesel have sold out or cashed in, Newkirk reiterates his starving activist cred. "I'm still not getting paid," he says.

Delawhopper Approved

An enthusiastic City Council approved plans last week to turn the 20-acre empty lot at 2120 Delaware St. into a live-work community meant to be a model of sustainable urban development.

The move came at a meeting July 29 at City Hall and brought cheers and hearty handshakes from the 30 developers and residents who turned up to offer their support.

"I think this is a great project and one I'm not grudgingly supporting," Councilman Mike Rotkin said. "I'm very excited to watch this grow."

The 530,000-square-foot community, to be built in phases over the next 15 years, is one of the largest projects approved in more than 30 years. Plans call for dense residential and industrial condominiums to be constructed along with tree-lined boulevards, parks, courtyards and a riparian corridor.

Residential streets will split the block into 45 sublots, creating space for a maximum of 145 industrial condominiums and 161 residential and work/live condos.

Every phase of the current plan is being handled locally, from the ownership to the design and the construction—a point Redtree Properties developer Craig Frenchwas happy to point out to Metro Santa Cruz.

"This is local from the ground up," says French. "We just have to be careful of the economy and move slowly. But the plan is flexible and we can do that."

Not everyone is excited to see an influx of nearly 300 homes and businesses into the traffic-challenged Westside, however. The Sierra Club recently submitted a letter to the City Council calling for a less dense version of the plan and citing the city's limited water resources, lack of parking and traffic-choked streets as reason to ax about 25 percent of the planned housing and business space.

"We have reviewed the project that is before you and find that the intensity of development which is being proposed is excessive and creates substantial adverse environmental impacts that can be remediated only by a lower density and intensity of activity on this site," reads the letter signed by Aldo Giacchino, chairman of the Santa Cruz County office of the Sierra Club.

Councilmembers and builders, however, have been quick to point out that densely populated areas are a key component of green building.

"Higher density protects against urban sprawl, so you're not creating more suburbia," French said. "Making the project less dense would defeat the purpose."

Construction crews are set to break ground on the project in September; the community's first residents could be moving in by the fall of 2009.

Nūz just loves juicy tips about Santa Cruz County politics.

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